Killing 6 Birds with 1 Stone: Harder Than It Sounds

| Tuesday July 1st, 2014 | 1 Comment

5-sales-woman-at-ndzilo-store-maputo-mozambique-300x200 Two years ago I reported on an inspiring project kicking off in Mozambique: clean cookstoves, powered by locally produced ethanol made from locally grown cassava, sold neighbor-to-neighbor. CleanStar Mozambique attempted to tackle deforestation, land degradation, malnutrition, poverty, indoor air pollution and carbon emissions with one innovative initiative.

It appeared they’d thought of everything: The plan featured plenty of job development with a biofuel plant in the Sofala province, contracts with local farmers to grow cassava, a locally relevant marketing plan, and a pack of international investors to give the project a boost.

However, the project faced formidable challenges from the beginning.

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Why We Care: Valuing Both Economy and Environment

3p Contributor | Tuesday July 1st, 2014 | 0 Comments

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on the Erb Perspective blog, a publication of the Frederick A. and Barbara M. Erb Institute at the University of Michigan.

Andrew Hoffman entering Yosemite National Park on his motorcycle.

Andrew Hoffman entering Yosemite National Park on his motorcycle.

By Andrew Hoffman

To protect something, we have to love it.  And to love it, we have to take the time to appreciate its beauty and value. Last week, I took some time to do just that.  After giving a keynote address at the new Center for Climate Communication at the very-green University of California Merced, I added three extra days with a old friend to tour the Sierra Nevada and Yosemite National Park on the back of a motorcycle (Harley Davidson Road King for those who care about such things).

Those three days reminded me of what our work is about, allowed me time to reflect on our purpose and, at the most basic level, helped to restore my soul. Experiencing the countryside on a motorcycle is a special way to explore.  It’s not like seeing the world through the framed barrier of a windshield.  The world is right there beneath your feet. You can reach down and touch it, and sometimes it reaches up and touches you – at one point, a bee landed inside my leather jacket and proceeded to sting me twice before I could come safely to a stop.  As you ride, you feel the slightest change in temperature, and you smell everything – fruit groves, grape vines, pine forests, mountain waterfalls, barbeques and dry fields. As you lean and balance through the switchbacks of the back roads, you are effortlessly part of the environment around you; it feels like thought into motion.

The weekend traversing Yosemite Valley was a visceral reminder of what we need to preserve for future generations (just as Teddy Roosevelt and Ansel Adams did before us). Our National Park system is still, as Ken Burns described it, “America’s Best Idea;” and our affection for it crosses political divides, geographic boundaries, and income levels. But while we love nature, our relationship with it is not always easy and the signs of that uneasy relationship were visible throughout the ride.

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How the Citi Foundation is Helping to Build a Marketplace for U.S. Community Investments

3p Contributor | Tuesday July 1st, 2014 | 1 Comment
CDFIs finance affordable housing in underserved markets.

CDFIs finance the development of affordable housing, and a wide range of other activities, in underserved markets.

By Kristen Scheyder

If you’re a regular reader of Triple Pundit, chances are good that you’ve heard of “impact,” “sustainable” or “mission” investing, which according to their broadest definitions mean investing to generate a social and/or environmental impact, alongside a financial return.

Chances are slimmer, however, that you’ve heard as much about CDFIs (community development financial institutions), which have a 30+ year track record of investing in underserved U.S. markets for social and environmental impact. CDFIs make loans and investments to foster economic equality, environmental sustainability, food access, health care, education, affordable housing and more. As financial intermediaries, CDFIs offer a convenient way for mission-driven investors to target their capital towards particular economic or environmental issues – while prudently managing risk.

The Citi Foundation has supported CDFIs for more than two decades, believing in their power to create economic opportunity for low-income individuals, families and their communities. CDFIs are one way to increase the flow of capital and the supply of financial products and services in the open market to those outside the economic mainstream. Through thought leadership, pro bono involvement and our financial support, we aim to build and expand this important industry to ensure greater access to capital for all.

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World Bank: Climate Change Policies Will Boost Global Economy

Bill DiBenedetto | Monday June 30th, 2014 | 5 Comments

WorldBank_Smart0Development0MaThe economic argument against taking action on climate change — i.e., “It’s just too expensive!” — is fast becoming passé, with a World Bank report this month noting that policies to cut carbon pollution might actually boost the global economy by up to $2.6 trillion a year.

Yes, that’s trillion!

This is the first time that “climate-smart” project scenarios have been tallied on such a large scale to find out how government actions can boost economic performance and benefit lives, jobs, crops, energy and GDP – as well as emissions reductions to combat climate change.

The 88-page report, “Climate-Smart Development: Adding Up the Benefits of Actions that Help Build Prosperity, End Poverty and Combat Climate Change,” focuses on five countries – Brazil, China, India, Mexico, and the United States – plus the European Union. Big benefits will flow by 2030 if that group implements just three sets of policies on clean transportation, energy efficiency in industry and energy efficiency in buildings, the report asserts.

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Business Leaders Call on Congress to Extend Clean Energy Tax Credits

| Monday June 30th, 2014 | 0 Comments

GE1.7WindTurbine Business leaders are calling on Congress to take action and extend clean energy tax incentives. A total of 302 companies and business associations signed a letter urging Congressional leaders to vote ‘yes’ and pass the EXPIRE Act, which would extend the tax credits they say “are critical to the continued growth of clean energy technologies.”

Listed among the 62 tax incentives included in the EXPIRE (Expiring Provisions Reform and Efficiency) Act are renewable energy production and investment tax credits that have been seminal in fostering rapid growth in wind, solar, biofuels and other clean renewable energy sources across the U.S. The EXPIRE Act would extend these provisions for an additional year, through Dec. 31, 2015.

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Michael Dell, U.N. Join Forces to Advance Entrepreneurship in Developing Countries

Sherrell Dorsey
| Monday June 30th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Un foundation, united nations foundation, social entrepreneurship, kiva, ashoka, Kathy calvin, Michael dell, Michael dell Global Advocate for Entrepreneurship, social impact, social impact investing, microlending, global entrepreneurship, silicon valley, microfinance More risk taking, more startup culture, and more genius ideas turned into jobs that solve the perils of global poverty. These are the goals behind a newly minted partnership between Michael Dell and the United Nations to spur innovation, technology and entrepreneurship in the least likely of environments.

Dell will serve as the foundation’s Global Advocate for Entrepreneurship. In this role, he will lead a strategic plan that will focus on four key areas: access to capital, to markets, to talent, and to technology. In short, Dell’s mission boils down to creating Silicon Valley-esque climates in countries and cities that have yet to adopt entrepreneurial cultures but are fertile for growth and opportunity.

At the age of 19, the American businessman turned $1,000 into a venture that to date employs over 100,000 people. As a global entrepreneurship advocate, Dell offers a credible voice for small business ventures that wouldn’t normally have access to a global platform in front of experts, governments and policymakers.

“At this time of economic uncertainty and global challenges, it’s more important than ever that the business community work closely with organizations, elected leaders and policymakers to help our global economy grow and prosper,” said Michael Dell in a press statement. “I’m honored to accept this position and look forward to championing the growth of entrepreneurs globally.”

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Waste Heat Recovery a Path for Cement Makers to Cut Costs and Emissions

| Monday June 30th, 2014 | 0 Comments

IFCCementWHRCvr Widespread adoption of waste heat recovery (WHR) systems could drive substantial reductions in carbon and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for cement manufacturers, according to a recently released report from the International Finance Corp. (IFC) and the Institute for Industrial Productivity (IIP).

The predominant building material of our times, cement manufacturing requires an inordinate of energy. It also produces an inordinate amount of carbon dioxide and other pollutants. It is estimated that cement manufacturing alone accounts for 5 percent of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions globally.

Prodded by environmental NGOs and government regulatory agencies, cement manufacturers have been on a drive to reduce their CO2 emissions, and they’ve made significant progress. Looking to add to them, installation of WHR systems “can reduce the operating costs and improve EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization) margins of cement manufacturers some 10-15 percent. According to IFC-IIP’s “Waste Heat Recovery for the Cement Sector: Market and Supplier Analysis” report.

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When Does Generosity Become Educational Control?

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Monday June 30th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Koch_Bros_UNCF_funding_Elvert_BarnesLast October we reported on an effort by JPMorgan Chase & Co. to donate money to the University of Delaware. The financial institution’s generous donation of $17 million wasn’t the reason it was in the news. After all, UD is already home to the JPMorgan Chase Innovation Center, and Delaware has received other donations as well from the institution. But the announcement set off warning bells when it became clear that the donation would be provided to fund a PhD program, and the financial institution would have the right to sit in on candidate selections.

Well, the concept seems to be gaining steam. Earlier this month, the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) announced that it had received a donation of $25 million from Charles and David Koch, otherwise known as the Koch brothers.

According to the Charles Koch Foundation website, the funding was issued jointly by the foundation and Koch Industries. Of the $25 million, $18.5 million will go toward funding scholarship for “exemplary students with a demonstrated financial need” who are seeking to address specific topics related to entrepreneurship. Funding will also support school programs and other auxiliary projects. The remaining $6.5 million will provide general funding for historically black colleges and universities (HCBUs) and the UNCF, with $4 million going toward helping the institutions and students affected by funding shortfalls as a result of the Department of Education’s criteria change to the PARENTS PLUS program.

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How One Social Entrepreneur is Changing Education Through Technology

3p Contributor | Monday June 30th, 2014 | 0 Comments
thinkCERCA Founder and CEO Eileen Murphy

thinkCERCA Founder and CEO Eileen Murphy

By Elizabeth Ferruelo

Fixing the education system has long been a national priority — and a national struggle. The U.S. lags behind other developed countries in math and science, and student performance is uneven across states. But the convergence of two new trends is creating reason for cautious optimism.

The Common Core standards, called by the New York Times “the most significant change to American public education in a generation,” have created uniform curricular objectives, which seek to smooth out  the unevenness in education. Second, technology — cheaper hardware and digital tools such as Khan Academy or MOOCs — has opened access to information, professors and resources in ways unimaginable a decade earlier.

While this technology was disrupting most industries, a fragmented market and paper textbooks delayed the entry of new companies, products and ideas into education. But a more fertile market created by the Common Core and digitalization, and futile attempts to convince a publisher to build the curriculum program she needed, prompted teacher-turned-social entrepreneur Eileen Murphy to launch thinkCERCA.

Experience teaching English in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and working in curriculum design in a central office meant Murphy knew not only what teachers needed, but she could see the larger, more troubling picture. Centralized data revealed student performance decreasing in many cases, pointing to a failure in individualized teaching. At a micro level, she visited 20 blended schools—those integrating online learning in the classroom — and noticed dramatic shortcomings. “The gaping hole was in literacy. We also saw that digital use was isolated – it was not collaborative and there was no teacher involvement.”

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6 Ways to Turn Your Corporate Event Sustainable

3p Contributor | Monday June 30th, 2014 | 0 Comments

5693012875_1aaf45b709_mBy Caroline Ginnane

As the world’s population booms and western-style consumerism continues to spread to the farthest corners of the globe, protecting our natural environment and resources has never been as important as it is now. Our global future rests on our ability and willingness to make sustainable choices.

Stay at the forefront of society by making small changes to your corporate events that will have long-lasting positive effects on the environment while ultimately saving money and branding your company in an ethical way.

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Harley Davidson’s LiveWire “Test Ride” Brings Electrics Closer to Mainstream

| Sunday June 29th, 2014 | 1 Comment

harley-davidson-museumMaking a pitstop in Milwaukee this weekend I was excited to see that Harley Davidson would be offering a peak at their new LiveWire electric motorcycle prototype at their iconic museum here.

As it turned out, demand was so high for test rides the best I could get was a look at the bike and chance to rev one held in a stationary position (see video below).  Nonetheless, it was more than enough to be impressed.

Harley’s new ride (more info on the company website here) is merely an experiment at the moment.  Although they’ve produced more than a dozen fully functional prototypes, the bike is currently just a test to see who’s interested in a mainstream electric motorcycle and to garner feedback on the model.  The test will also determine whether such people represent a new market for the company or if the grizzled, sonic-boom inducing core of Harley enthusiasts would ever go for a quiet, carbon free alternative.

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3p Weekend: 5 Reasons Businesses Should Care About Climate Change

Mary Mazzoni
| Friday June 27th, 2014 | 7 Comments

10637793755_3c52dddbe8_zWith a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads, and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.

On the heels of the latest three-part report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), it seems a new study comes out daily about how a changing climate may impact life as we know it. It’s always tricky to ask: Why now? But, as recent research shows, not asking may prove even more costly. To get your mind going this Friday afternoon, we gathered up five reasons businesses should care about climate change — not tomorrow, not next year, but right in the here and now. 

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Report Shows the Benefits of Cradle to Cradle Certification, But Is It Enough?

Raz Godelnik
| Friday June 27th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Ecover_Picture When “Cradle to Cradle” was published in 2002, it generated great hopes that it could lead to a more sustainable future. The launch of the C2C certification by the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute provided companies with a clear framework on how to adopt the concept, making a paradigm shift seem even more likely.

Yet, even with more than 200 companies worldwide participating today in the C2C Certified Products Program, and with hundreds of product lines representing thousands of different products certified, C2C is still a niche market with little influence on the overall economy.

And so, almost a decade after C2C certifications became available, it’s still very much a promise that hasn’t been fulfilled.

Why? I assume there are many reasons, but the main one seems to be that most companies just don’t recognize the value in adopting the C2C certification. In order to address this issue, the C2C Products Innovation Institute commissioned Trucost, a leading global environmental data and insight company, “to develop an assessment framework with clearly defined indicators to determine the effect of optimization on the business, environmental and social impact of products.”

The result is a 145-page report in which Trucost presents its analysis of 10 C2C-certified products from different companies (and industries), including Aveda, Desso, Ecover, PUMA, Shaw Industries, Steelcase and Van Houtum.

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UNEP Report Discloses the Business Risks of Plastic Use

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Friday June 27th, 2014 | 0 Comments

plastic garbagePlastic is used in everything from electronic devices, including computers and smartphones, to food packaging. However, plastic also has a big impact on the environment.

There is a mass of garbage in the Pacific Ocean off the California coast twice the size of Texas, called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It outnumbers marine life by 6 to 1. That plastic swirling around in the Pacific makes its way into the food chain as marine life eat small pieces of plastic.

The material is also energy-intensive and requires petroleum to be manufactured. Another key issue with plastics manufacturing is the release of greenhouse gases (GHGs): More than 30 percent of the natural capital costs from GHG emissions released upstream in the supply chain come from extracting raw materials and manufacturing plastic feedstock, according to a report from the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP). Marine pollution has an additional natural capital cost of at least $13 billion.

The total natural capital cost of plastic used in the consumer goods industry is more than $75 billion a year, the report finds. Food companies are the biggest part of that figure, responsible for 23 percent of the total natural capital cost. That figure is especially startling when you consider the brief lifespan of the plastics food companies use for packaging: After food is eaten, their packages are tossed in the garbage can, which is not exactly efficient use of plastic. The toy sector has the highest intensity, at 3.9 percent of revenue, meaning that a higher proportion of their revenue is at risk.

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Dynamic Governance: A New System for Better Decisions

Sarah Lozanova | Friday June 27th, 2014 | 5 Comments

Editor’s Note: This is the first post in a three-part series on dynamic governance, a new operating system for both for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations.

sociocracy dynamic governance During the financial crisis of 2008, Creative Urethanes, a plastics manufacturing company based in Virginia, saw business dry up overnight — with sales down by 50 percent. CEO Richard Heitfield was shocked and immobilized by the situation, but the employees sprang into action, creating a plan that everyone could accept.

One of the company’s product lines was wheels for skateboards and roller skates; they created an innovative design for them in the 1970s that helped the sports grow into multi-million dollar industries. Now they were reeling.

“All of a sudden, our business was way down,” says Heitfield. “While that was going on, our management group was sitting down and making a plan. It was a very detailed and elaborate plan that happened spontaneously. Folks were comfortable enough with the process to put it on the table and get it into action. That’s a direct result of using the sociocratic process. If these guys had not come to action and done the work, we would have folded.”

Sociocracy — also called dynamic governance — is a non-authoritarian organizational operating system that empowers people to make policy within their established domains, fostering better and clearer decisions. The company culture that was built at Creative Urethanes through adoption of dynamic governance in the 1980s allowed leadership to spring up when it was most needed, enabling the business to stay afloat during a very difficult time.

In many organizations, decision makers under-utilize the knowledge, expertise and experience of lower-level employees when it’s time to make decisions. Even in companies where the leadership wishes to create an open-door atmosphere, reality may be quite different. Policies get created with good intentions that breed ineffective results and even resentment. In dynamic governance, every voice is heard for creating policies — and a management hierarchy exists for daily operations.

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